Last week Heart of Life joined with Kardia, Living Well and Wellspring to host a masterclass for Spiritual Directors with Pádraig Ó Tuama.
Though wet and cold, and more of a wintry blast than a Melbourne autumn, it was a most extraordinary day. Gently held and weaved with scripture, poetry and community, we looked at conflict from the perspective of the personal, as a spiritual listener and more widely as a community.
With notebooks and pens at the ready, participants jotted words and listened attentively to Pádraig’s scholarly insights, peppered with humour and humility. He opened the scriptures, shared his passion for poetry and quoted his favourites: Mary Oliver and David Wagoner among them, and invited listeners to consider the voices within the writings and the possible conflicts that shaped each work. Calling on one entitled, A Bitterness, in which Mary Oliver writes as a mature woman, painfully about her father. Pádraig remarked something along the lines of, “A lot of people consider her a nature poet. She’s more of a human nature poet.” After he sensitively recited the poem, he asked the group, “How long do you think it took her to be able to write that? [Pause] Her whole life.”
Through this example, and drawing from his years of experience working in conflict resolution, Pádraig demonstrated how a person’s lived experiences – in the tragedy and in the mundane, become tools for stories, and his point: that conflict, especially within spiritual accompaniment, is not something to be afraid of, but rather something that you have to invite and hold in space, because presence is at the heart of spiritual accompaniment.
With a well-catered morning tea and lunch, participants were able to mingle and engage in conversation. The sun came out at some point too, casting a warm glow through the lunch room windows.
What remains in my heart is the awareness of my tendency to make decisions in potential conflict situations based on fear of an unknown future at the hands of unknown ‘others’. The great invitation of this awareness is to be present to making decisions from a place of loving-kindness – that for me was the message of the day.
Afterwards, many commented on Pádraig’s giftedness, taking away lessons for their ministry, including:
- [the need for the] broadening of language around conflict and [the] deepening of understanding of the dynamic that’s taking place;
- continuing to be curious and [to] hold differing perspectives as Ruth [biblical] did; and
- [the importance of] groundedness – that sometimes being ‘the lost’ is where Jesus meets us.
Pádraig’s skill at delivering thought-provoking, unfolding questions, while seamlessly weaving poignant life experiences is a testimony to his character as a man of wisdom and honest insight.
Thank you, Pádraig for your presence amongst us.